Report Back from Durham: Statue Toppling
I didn’t expect last night to turn into a large event, I only heard about it hours before it began, but it apparently turned into a giant media spectacle that would be reported in every major national MSM outlet from the New York Times to Time Magazine. But of course thats just what it was, a huge media spectacle and purely symbolic victory. I got there early with a friend, there were a few WWP (World Worker’s Party) members present along with some local news outlets and possibly some national news outlets– idk there were a lot of media folks already there which is kind of interesting for reasons I’ll get into later. Anyway, the event kicks off with some chants to rile up the crowd, mixed in with some words from the two main WWP organizers. They had some valuable things to say about dismantling the narrative that liberals create to sanitize and whitewash the resurgence of Nazism– for example, that slogans like “Love Trumps Hate” and how the identification of Nazism/white supremacy as simply “hate” is damaging because it reduces Nazism/white supremacy to a simple feeling and erases the underlying ideology and material basis for why white supremacy persists to this day. A lot was said about the need for people to link up and defend ourselves, but no real strategy or outreach effort was proposed. The main thing that was glaringly lacking from a communist organization’s analysis was the linkage of resistance to racism and white supremacy back to the overall class struggle. I don’t think anything was said about how this fight links back to capitalism– capitalism was mentioned here and there and anti-capitalism is always implied, but they could have produced a clear linkage between for example, the local government building yet another police station in a black neighborhood and the need for more prison labor. But everything had to be reduced to chants and platitudes.
The most interesting people who spoke at this event were medics who were allegedly at the scene of the terrible car attack that left one woman dead in Charlottesville. Some of them were from the Durham area but I think some were from other places outside of the state like New York, which was kind of interesting that they just happened to end up in Durham where the next big event of this narrative would unfold. The individuals from New York were Black Bloc anarchists, who once the statue was toppled started “masking up” and changing clothes, they didn’t do anything else besides march but let’s just say I don’t trust them. The medics told harrowing stories about the carnage of the attack and how the police pretty much just allowed it to happen and even hindered some medics from tending to the wounded. For the record, I wouldn’t doubt if this Charlottesville attack was pre-planned or conducted under police auspices, apparently there were no road blocks that would usually be there, but perhaps that was a result of the chaos, perhaps not. Also there are the usual reports of the police just turning a blind eye to the violence towards counter-protesters by Nazis and someone mentioned how at certain points, the police would seem to be pushing the two side together with their lines, increasing the likelihood of violence. We should recall the Greensboro Massacre of 1979 where several communists were murdered by the klan with the Greensboro police department having pre-knowledge of the attack…
Anyway the statue comes down with peculiar ease and everyone loses their minds as if this will stop the inevitable fascist onslaught that they are a target of. No one was arrested at the scene apparently but some are charged with vandalism (the police just stood by and recorded the whole thing). Chants and platitudes about love and solidarity were belted out but no coordination of a defense strategy. I would like to say that this event very much acted as a sort of “pressure valve release” for the strategy of tension that I believe is being used by the state. The toppling of the statue was the response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, and the police allowed BOTH to happen. Now the Nazi scum have their victory, which is the blood of comrades, and the left has their little victory which is mere symbolic destruction of Amerikkka and the ensuing party-like stupor of chants and pantomime.
The organizers of the protest and the leftists who follow them closely seem to measure success in how much media attention they can generate– or at least, to give them the benefit of the doubt, they probably rate spectacle production such as this event as on par with more material victories such as successful strikes or any other action that make material gains for workers. I think the reason so much hype is put up around statue toppling, and other “direct action” demonstrations that generate huge crowds and social media attention is because they are easy to do and, well, they simply *feel good.* I think revisiting Guy Debord’s society of the spectacle may be in order here perhaps?